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Lucy in the Sky

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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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A bouquet arrives...

A beautiful bouquet of flowers was delivered to the house the other day. A handwritten note paid compliments to my work and wished me a speedy recovery.

Who was it from? A friend? A colleague? An old classmate? The card was signed, “Your Least Favorite Movie Star, Rob Schneider.”

Saints preserve us.

It will help to establish a context if I mention that my review of Schneider’s latest film, “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo,” contained three words which provided me with the title of my new book: “Your Movie Sucks.”

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I regard the flowers and intuit they were not sent in the spirit of irony. Despite my review, Rob Schneider was moved to make a kind and generous gesture, one person to another.

The bouquet didn’t change my opinion of his movie, but I don’t think he intended that. It was a way of stepping back. It was a reminder that in the great scheme of things, a review doesn’t mean very much.

Sometimes when I write a negative review, people will say, “I’ll bet you can’t wait to hammer his next film.” Not true. I would far rather praise the next film to show that I maintained an open mind.

When Vincent Gallo’s “The Brown Bunny” played at Cannes in 2003, I walked out of the screening and declared it “the worst movie in the history of the film festival.” This was an unwise thing to do. My policy for years has been to avoid giving a negative review of a festival film until it has a chance to open.

Gallo issued a curse on my colon. I responded that the video of my colonoscopy was more entertaining than his film, and there the matter rested until 2004, when Gallo released a “final cut” of “The Brown Bunny” which was re-edited and 30 minutes shorter. I went to see it, and now I could see better what he was getting at, and I gave it a positive review.

“Ill bet you hated to change your mind,” I was told. No, I was happy to. It is a hard and frustrating thing to make a movie, and credit must be given where due.

Now we come back to the flowers. They were a reminder, if I needed one, that although Rob Schneider might (in my opinion) have made a bad movie, he is not a bad man, and no doubt tried to make a wonderful movie, and hopes to again. I hope so, too.

Thanks, Rob.

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